BBQ Life #14
Welcome again, I hope everybody enjoyed my first blog post. Today we are gonna talk about Competition BBQ. Competition BBQ it is and it isn't like what you see on TV. Sure we've all sat down and watch BBQ Pitmasters, Smoked or Pit Wars at some point. We've all thought hey that doesn't look that hard I can do that. Well I'm here to tell you you can but it definitely takes more work than what you see on TV. So two years ago I said I want to try this. So I looked around on Facebook and found a small local competition. It wasn't actually a sanctioned event but they attempted to run it like one and I said you know what let's go for it. I called up a buddy of mine and said what do you think, think we can handle it? He said yes and that was that we were BBQ team.
I started going online and looking for lists of things that we needed. With my list in hand it was time to get my supplies in order. That list is large but necessary. Many of the items you will find on these kind of lists will seem no brainers but without that list I can guarantee you will forget things in fact even with it you will. Biggest thing I did to help was get a three ring binder, yes in today's techie world I said binder. I found it was easy to have my lists right there. Everyone on my team knew the binder and used it. What's nice is it's a physical thing you can grab and flip right open quickly. It also allowed for easy editing of the list.
The list does not know your timeline or processes. They do not know your cooker and what it takes to operate. These are all things you have to adapt your list to. Do you wrap brisket in butcher paper or do you Texas crutch? Does your cooker need wood chunks or wood pieces? Are you hot and fast or low and slow? These are all going to change what supplies you will be bringing. Understand too that you or a teammate will most likely be running out at some point because you inevitably will forget something or run out of something. You will reach for foil and end up with a piece half the size you need because the roll ran out.
You have your list, gathered your supplies so now what just wait till the weekend of the comp and go for it? No, now it's time to do a practice cook or two or three. We have all spent many a weekend cooking we know how to do it right? Wrong! We know how to relax and cook when time is much less a factor. For most backyard cooks timing is not a huge deal we just cook till it's ready, right? Sorry dear dinner's gonna be more like 5:30 not 5:00. For a competition timing is half the battle. You can make the best ribs in the world but if your late for turn in, then the only people who will know how good they are is you.
Set a turn in time for yourself and work backwards to figure out your timeline. If you say it's 5:00 pm then work backwards from there to figure out how long you think plating will take, how long it should rest and how long it should cook. Do not forget to figure how long it will take you to prep the meat before cooking. Once you have it figured out try it and see what happens. At this point don't worry about flavor profiles or presentation. Just get your cook times down to cook the meat till tenderness. I also suggest start with each meat individually. I like to break everything down into small chunks then add them together to get a finished timeline. Start small,I did ribs first. Set my finish time then figured about 10 min of plating time, then 15 min of rest. Next is cook time I am more of a hot and fast kinda guy so I do my ribs in 4 hours. I like to have my ribs seasoned and rested about 30 min before cooking. So I plan on 4 hrs and 55 min from seasoning to plating. Figure this out for each meat. Some meats are different you may want them seasoned and rested for hours before going on the cooker. These are variables that you as the cook have to decide.
I hope I have been able to help some of you out. We will see you next month where we will continue to talk about competing in your first competition. Till then cowboy up and keep smoking.
So far in my short BBQ lifetime, I have made some incredible meals. Now, one thing they have all had in common is that they were pretty significant meals which I wouldn't have without BBQ. In a way BBQ for me has been a turn off on the dinner highway. Simply meals that didn't happen otherwise. This week though, that is all changing.
For this cook, I am making tacos. So a year ago, that meant throwing some ground beef in a skillet with some seasoning. The ease of this made it a staple in my household. So I was a little taken back when Mikey assigned me tacos. It sounded kinda like he was taking my simple household meal and making it far too much of a process for a weeknight.
I quickly realized though, what he was actually doing was allowing me to enjoy the art of BBQ and still cook something simple. It was kinda genius really. The meat for these new tacos was set to be slow smoked chuck roast pulled. See this was new too. I have pulled chicken. I have certainly pulled pork, but never beef.
Like most cooks, I assumed this would be smoke slow at 250 until the beef gets to about 190. And like most cooks, Mikey quickly corrected me. He instructed me to smoke the beef until about 165 internal. At that point put the roast in an aluminum pan along with a sliced pepper, a sliced onion, a bit of butter and a can or two of beer. Different for sure...but I was cooking with beer so I certainly would not complain.
Alright, so I love me some High Life. But considering I was cooking with beer, I switched over to Coors Banquet for that extra class. I picked up a beautiful USDA choice chuck roast. I carefully picked out Southern Links Steak and Brisket Seasoning for my rub. With the roast rubbed and the beautiful white smoke pouring out of my kettle it was time to get this cook going.
In all honesty, this cook went pretty flawlessly. While the roast was smoking, I cut up my peppers and onions. Soon the internal temp hit 165 and I sealed the roast up in its bath of Banquet and started working on everything else that goes with tacos. Just after that point is when I realized that the adage of BBQ being ready when it is ready doesn't quite make everyone happy. The temp was going up slowly and I had a very hungry family on my hands.
Finally, it hit temp. I pulled it off the grill and began to shred it. Soon there was a bowl of the most incredible pulled beef I had ever seen. It was time to eat. After only a couple bites, I realized that this was like unlike any taco Tuesday we have ever had in the family. The difference between a typical skillet ground beef taco and a smoked pulled chuck roast is unbelievable. The family certainly agreed as it was all eaten almost instantly.
Like I said, I can hardly see me pulling off this smoke on a weeknight for a quick taco dinner. At the same time, I would certainly be able to cook this on the weekend and save it for a mid-week meal. It was a very enjoyable BBQ twist to a pretty standard meal in my house.
Ironically the next night I was at Mikey's house to eat pulled chicken and pulled pork tacos which he made. Obviously, there is a difference between them...But at the very least I feel my pulled beef tacos certainly were in the same category.
Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!
So in this post, I decided to take on my arch nemesis, the chicken. I figured if I fail at cooking the whole bird, maybe if I only cook parts of the bird I can succeed.
Chicken and I have a torrid past. It is odd because in a lot of ways this bird is a staple of life. Chicken is on everything and served everywhere. Chicken is in salads and on pasta. The reality is, it is a versatile meat...and one which apparently everyone can cook but me. And this is where chicken and I part ways.
See, I don't have anything against chicken when it comes to eating, only cooking. Sure I think the bird has probably gotten a bit used up. I mean it would be great to go to a wedding with a real meal and not this plain old chicken breast sitting there. But whatever, I still enjoy it.
Now in kitchens and on grills across the country, every novice is serving up the bird flawlessly. I mean really, it is a chicken breast, not a brisket, right? Yet every time I have tried to make it, I fail. So I figured now I have more skill, let me do the simple and take on the plain chicken breast.
Don't think my reasoning for this cook was purely grudge based. The reality is I want to enjoy BBQ more than the weekends, while not having the time to cook. So I figured, if I could grill up a set of fantastic chicken breasts, I could be eating those all week long. Hell, I could put it on salad or pasta of my own.
So I did it, I bought a pack of chicken breasts and I was committed to making this work. Despite this being an exceedingly simple cook to most, I needed to consult the great Oracle of Mikey for guidance. His guidance was also exceedingly simple. Not that I expected it to not be, but still, there had to be some secret. If it was this simple I should be able to do it. Somewhere along my many battles with chicken I had gone done some wormhole believing that I failed because the breasts were too thick and thus impossible to cook unless I beat the shit out of them with a hammer first.
So like I said, I was still a little surprised at the simple advice. 250, rub them, cook until they get to 145, then finish on the coals. For the rub, I decided to go with Historic BBQ's Red. For smoke, I went with just a kiss of cherry. So now I had a plan.
I rubbed all the breasts with a little olive oil and then the Historic Red Rub. I fired up the kettle got her to a steady 250 and it was time for this epic battle to begin. Even though this was chicken, I tried to pretend this was just like every other cook I have done. I stayed on task and watched the temp hit 145. I finished them up on the coals and brought them inside.
I will admit I was super nervous biting into this chicken, far more nervous than anything else I cooked. It looked great, but I could not help but think that despite its looks the chicken had bested me again. To my surprise, it tasted great. It was cooked perfectly!
More than just cooking another BBQ meal, this was my first attempt at letting my weekend cook feed me throughout the week. It worked great. All week long I had a base in which I could easily throw together a great lunch. There is something very enjoyable about taking out a lunch based in great BBQ, even if it is a left over.
So while I have not conquered the chicken completely, successfully cooking chicken breasts is a huge step in the right direction. One day soon I will face off against the bird and I will be victorious!
Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!